September 2013

Book Tour: Halfway!

I am not dead!

Two days of tour down, two to go—I get a break in the middle here to travel to Charlotte. (We’ll see if the TSA comes up with any new excitements…)

So far, it’s gone well! I’m pretty hoarse by the end of the day, usually, but my voice is holding up. All the people organizing everything have been wonderful. (The nice librarians at St. Christopher’s Academy gave me a St. Christopher medal for safe travel! I am quite touched!)

I have few observations to make, except that all-boys schools are rowdier (and right before lunch, it’s Lord of the Flies in there—and right after, they’re very sedate. The teachers are fully aware of this phenomenon, but I sure wasn’t!) and I can hold a room full of kids for 35-45 minutes, but over an hour leaves me wrung out and exhausted.

BBGB Book had an awesome little meet-up in the store, and some fans and old friends came out–great to see you guys! (Hi, Callista!)  Thanks to Mark for being so awesome (and you guys can geek out about D&D at one of my signings ANY TIME. Seriously. After a day full of small children, I am delighted to talk about paladins and smiting.)

This morning I got to sleep in, which meant I went down for almost twelve hours, and now I am more or less ready to hie off to Charlotte. Woo!

Tomorrow will be the really rough day–FIVE school sessions, then I get on a plane, get in to Miami fairly late, go to the store, sign stock, eat a very late dinner, go to the hotel and drop dead for about seven hours, then get up and do it again.

And then home! Glorious home! Where Kevin and the Island of Misfit Pets are waiting!

Book Tour Day : My Secret Fear

I am on a book tour!

Since this is mostly school visits, the only public appearance I’m making is in Richmond VA, at BBGB Books, on Tuesday evening. (I think it’s at 4:30, but you might wanna check their webpage.)

Book tours are kind of lonely and weird and exhausting, but I’ve got a lot of editing to do while I am on trains and lurking in airports, so I should hopefully get plenty done. (For a bit it looked like I’d get to be on trains for most of the travel, which would be awesome, but alas, that got switched around back to planes.)

On the bright side, I wandered out behind the hotel with my binoculars and spotted a Northern Waterthrush bobbing its butt in the bushes, which is a life bird for me and not a bad one, either. And then I realized I’d forgotten my iPhone charger and walked over to the mall and did a little recreational shopping at something called “Lord & Taylor” that does not exist in the South.

And the food budget they give to authors–christ, I’d have to drink heavily and live on sushi to burn through it, even at East Coast prices.

Still, I’ll be glad when it’s over. Doing my little song and dance about comics five times a day in rapid succession for cafeterias full of fourth-graders doesn’t just take all my energy, it writes checks for energy that won’t technically exist for weeks.

Fortunately, my editor, agent, AND publicist from the publisher all know what I’m like…

AGENT: This is like hell for an introvert, isn’t it?

ME: Yes.

PUBLICIST: Cocktails are covered.

EDITOR: Maybe not Bloody Marys in the morning, but sheesh, afterwards? Treat yourself. Get room service!

ME: …I’ve never had room service…

ALL THREE: You’ve never had room service!?

(They find it odd when I pull weeds during conference calls, too. In some ways, we come from very different words.)

And then there was the incident with the TSA…

ME: Gonna need a female assist for an opt-out.

(I may have done this a few times.)

TSA: (gets my stuff, takes it over.) Stand with your feet outside the yellow marks. What are you afraid of?

ME: …huh? What?

TSA: I’m s’posed to ask the opt-outs what you’re afraid of.

ME: Ducks.

(I panicked, okay? I know, I know, I should have said something about a police state or loss of liberty or radiation. I’m not good at this.)

TSA: …ducks?

ME: They’re all pinchy, with the bills, you know…

TSA: (blank stare)

ME: (making duck bill hand gestures to try to communicate pinchiness.)

TSA: …

ME: I was attacked by ducks as a child.

TSA: ….

ME: ….

TSA: So, I’m gonna use the back of my hand on your sensitive areas…


(I KNEW somebody was telling them to hassle opt-outs! I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!)

(Incidentally, they have no script whatsoever for “fear of ducks.” She didn’t even tell me to have a nice day afterwards.)

Belated Round-up!

So, a coupla things…

Yesterday, I learned that one of the colloquial names for lady’s slipper orchids is “whippoorwill shoes.”


I also learned that the highway I live just off of, which is a Generic Number, actually does have a name. In the maps, it is “Devil’s Stomping Ground Road.”*

Needless to say, this made me absurdly happy.

Hidden Almanac 3 went up yesterday, and it has been approved for the iTunes store!

Also, if you’re up in the Upper Peninsula next month, I have a gallery show at Gallery Boheme in Calumet, Michigan. It’ll be up through the month of October, and the opening is on the 4th. I’ll be there! It’s a bunch of originals, some limited edition prints, a few pieces that never made it onto the blog (SHEEEEEEP!) and should be generally nifty.

(Did I mention Book 9 of Dragonbreath is out? Case of the Toxic Mutants? I did, right? I was traveling, so maybe not…)


*Probably related to the Devil’s Tromping Ground, which is a thing somewhere in this county, I think over by Siler City. It is supposedly a permanently bare circle where the Devil goes to pace when he has some thinking to do. In person it is apparently not all that bare and not all that impressive, despite the best efforts of ghost-shows to jazz it up with camera filters.

Legend has it that chickens will not eat grain out of this enchanted circle, but I don’t know anyone who’s tried.


So I had this dream—most of it was the usual nonsensical twaddle about strange mythic beings in an abandoned city that vaguely resembled a dungeon crawl—but at the end, I wound up at a jewelry stall looking at necklaces.

There was one made of black basalt beads and silver spacers that I really liked, but it had one of those chiming pendants on it that drive me crazy—I feel like a belled cat—so I asked to switch out the pendant. The woman running the stall began pulling out all of these pendants in white and silver, carved like animals, and some of them came to life and ran away. We were debating the merits of an overly large silver fish when I saw a tail sticking out from a crack in the wall and pulled out a little alabaster mouse.

It curled up in my hands and I sang to it—and this is how you know it’s a dream, because I don’t sing unless I’m drunk or alone in the car—

Go to sleep
Go to sleep
Go to sleep
little mousie


Go to sleep
Fare thee well
you were always
just a mousie.


And it went to sleep, and then it was just a little carving of a mouse, and I said “I’ll take this one.”

And then I woke up and it was after ten and I had overslept, probably because of the shot of tequila I had last night when we discovered that my upcoming book tour has had some scheduling snafus. But it was still nifty.

Goblin Novella cover rough!

So this is my initial rough for the cover of the Goblin Novella.

It’s got a white background. That’s the bit that I am wavering most on.

A) The art looks best on white. So if I want to use this art, at least a chunk of it has to be white.

B) Very few trade book covers are white.

C) That either means it will stand out or look HORRIBLY AMATEURISH.

D) I don’t know which.

E) If I ever do a sequel, it is suggested that it have the same format, which is totally doable.

F) Cover art is mostly to show people that this is the kind of book they will like, not to make Deathless Art For The Ages.

G) Still don’t know if this is the way to go.

H) Thoughts appreciated.


Coupla Things…

Today’s Hidden Almanac is up!

Also, it became fall overnight. The air was cooling off, it was getting very nice, and then it rained and suddenly there were dead leaves all over the ground. Suddenly it is a fall garden. Many of the leaves are still green and on the trees, but the internal switch has been thrown. It Is Fall Now.

So there’s that.

Also, while I’d normally link this from my gardening blog, for the tale of the Scariest Insect Ever, I send you instead to today’s Beautiful Wildlife Garden column. There is a photo. BE AFRAID.

The Hidden Almanac

So it happened like this…

A bunch of friends of mine kept telling me that I needed to listen to this podcast called “Welcome to NightVale” because it was delightful and weird. Several of them described it as “Lake Woebegone meets Lovecraft.”

I did indeed listen to the podcast, and it was indeed delightful and weird, and you should totally go track it down because they deserve all the acclaim they get.


It is not at all like Lake Woebegone meets Lovecraft. Lake Woebegone is the town in Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, of which I happen to be a totally rabid fan* and I was going “Oh my god, do any of these people listen to Prairie Home Companion? Because this is not that! This is a very nice little community radio spoof, and PHC…is a radio variety show with a monologue. Seriously! And anyway, if you were going to do a parody on a Garrison Keillor show and make it freaky and weird, you wouldn’t even pick PHC because it’s too long and you’d have to be a master humorist to pull off the small town thing and you can only throw tentacles at a Lutheran pastor so many times before it stops being funny so obviously the one you’d want to parody would be the little short daily podcast he does called The Writer’s Almanac where he talks about stuff on this day in history and then reads a poem and ohshitthisisactuallyagoodidea.”

From this we can conclude that the inside of my head hates and fears punctuation. And that I was staring at the Farmer’s Almanac calendar on the wall next to my desk. And that I clearly don’t have enough to do with my free time.

So, um, from there we got to this. Which is a podcast that I wrote and made Kevin read. Which is about three minutes long, and called The Hidden Almanac, and tells you about what happened on this day in history in a totally fictional world mostly inside my head, tells you what feast-day of what totally nonexistent Saint it is, and provides some questionably helpful gardening tips.

It is about three minutes long and will occur Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, until we get bored or you people start mailing us roadkill to make us stop. (Please do not mis-address the roadkill to KUEC. We will not eat roadkill on KUEC unless it comes in a prepackaged container with heating instructions.)

You can download the latest (there’s only one right now, but we’ve got a couple of weeks in the bag) or listen to it online at

iTunes links will be up and running shortly!


*Yes, okay, Vin Diesel, Garrison Keillor, David Attenborough, My Little Pony…I’m complicated, okay? 

Not Always Killing Your Darlings

So there’s this lengthy scene in my current manuscript (which just came back for edits) involving a goldfish.

It is awesome. I say this in all modesty. It is the Hero’s Journey with a goldfish. I had a lot of fun writing it.

One of the edits is that there’s too much going on at the end and a couple of threads that don’t resolve and it occurred to me that if I just hacked out the bit with the goldfish, it would fix some of these concerns and cut a few thousand words.

Common writing wisdom has it that I should ruthlessly slice this out, throw it to the winds, kill my darlings. Sure, it’s painful! That’s how you know it’s working! PAIN IS EDITS LEAVING THE MANUSCRIPT!

I offered to slice out the goldfish.

My agent, my editor, AND my beta reader all came back and said “NOT THE GOLDFISH!” It was like I had the goldfish in front of the firing squad and everybody threw themselves over the bowl yelling “Take me instead!”

I guess the goldfish stays.


So, y’know, the moral is that sometimes, just occasionally, it’s painful because you shouldn’t be messing with it.

And as a follow-up to Manlyfest 2013…

I started thinking about it, and now must offer the following:

How To Survive A Riddick Movie If You Are Not Actually Riddick

1. Be young.

2. Be intensely religious.

2a. But not a weird Goth religion.

3. Be Karl Urban.

4. Under no circumstances appear in the sequel.

4a. Unless you are still Karl Urban

5. If you are neither young, religious, nor Karl Urban, your best shot is to try for noble antagonist, which will give you at least a 60% shot, although one of those was Karl Urban, so it may be more like 30%.

5a. For a Riddick movie, 30% is still better odds than you’ll get anywhere else.

6. Sexy is a crap-shoot.* Best survival odds in this case are attained by being sexy somewhere in the vicinity of Karl Urban.

7. Do not be Furian.

7a. No, really. This is just a bad idea.

8. Do not taunt Happy Fun Riddick. If Happy Fun Riddick has explained he’s going to kill you, try turning your gun on yourself at once. Obviously you’ll still be dead, but the look on his face may be worth it.

9. If you wish to survive, have good teeth. Poor dental hygiene is a death warrant. Should you find yourself in the vicinity of Riddick, reach immediately for a toothbrush.

10. Under no circumstances should you allow Riddick to become in any way fond of you. This guarantees that you will sacrifice yourself nobly AND get a protracted bleeding-out scene.

10a. Fortunately, Riddick only becomes attached to other creatures off-camera. If you suspect that you are between movies or trapped in a lengthy time-passing montage, RUN.

11. Take the money.

12. If you are a mercenary, but not young, religious, or Karl Urban, you are almost certainly going to die. However, if you can start making wisecracks, you will live marginally longer, unless they are the sort of wisecracks that are a set-up for your hilarious death, in which case you just haven’t been paying attention at all. This will also work in any horror movies you happen to find yourself in. You will still die but you may have time to set your affairs in order first.

13. Space doesn’t kill people, alien planets kill people. (Also Necromongers, mercenaries, and Riddick. Also Karl Urban.) If you are in space, you are probably safe. Until you land on the planet.

14. Do not go to an uncivilized alien planet with Riddick. If you suspect Riddick is on the planet, find pressing business elsewhere before you land. If you find that, despite these precautions, Riddick is on the same planet you are, it’s already too late. The planet will try to kill you shortly.

14a. There are no herbivores in the Riddick-verse. Herbivores are not sufficiently manly. This works because apparently there are no plants in the Riddick-verse either. Plants are definitely not manly.

14b. It occurs to me, given that there are no plants, that everybody’s got to be seriously constipated, which explains a few things about the Necromongers.

15. If you are a Bad Person and shoot women, children, puppies, priests, captive populaces, etc, you are going to die. Always. Probably hilariously.

14a. Interestingly enough, though, you will not die until fairly late in the movie. This means that if the wisecracking mercenary slot is already filled, you may have a better survival chance by immediately gunning down all priests and/or puppies in the immediate vicinity, as you are guaranteed to survive until the last third or so of the movie. We leave what to do with this information to your own moral compass.


(Feel free to add your own in the comments.)


*Depending on what the director’s cut of Riddick 3 reveals, being either a lesbian or bisexual woman may up your survival odds considerably. We do not have enough data to speculate at this time.

Riddick 3: You Are Not Manly Enough To Read This Review Of This Very Manly Movie

Statement of bias: I freaking love Riddick.

Seriously, I have watched Chronicles of Riddick more times than I can count, made Kevin also watch it, and the phrase “You shoulda taken the money, Toombs,” is permanently embedded in our relationship’s vocabulary. I was very sad they didn’t make the whole trilogy, and excited for Riddick 3.

It was a very manly movie.

Vin Diesel was manly. Also briefly naked. Manly naked. In silhouette.

Manly silhouette.

For approximately eighty percent of you, there is no further need to read more.

For the rest of you who have not clicked away to buy tickets RIGHT NOW….

Well, it’s not Chronicles. It’s somewhat more erratic. At times you are conscious of watching a bad movie (a very manly bad movie) but there are a few parts that are downright brilliant (the scene with the storage locker is hysterically well done) and also it’s a Riddick movie and thus a lot of badass fun with quite good CGI aliens ala Pitch Black and also if you are me and/or Otter, there are parts of this movie more or less designed to pander specifically to you. Had they harvested all my information off the internet and dedicate about twenty minutes of screen time to exactly what Ursula Adriane Vernon of North Carolina, Mac user, 36 and self-employed, wants out of a Riddick movie, they could not have hit it more precisely.

It is rather gory, in the nasty visceral I-can-feel-that way, not just in the buckets-of-blood-squirty way. Also, alien dog-analogs die. If these are a dealbreaker, stay home. You will be sad. Wait until the clip of Manly Naked Riddick hits YouTube and make some hot chocolate. Then watch it while drinking hot chocolate. You could probably follow with the “It’s Raining Men” clip cut to 300. That would be excellent.

It is also manly.

Very manly.

Manliness occurs.

Riddick does manly things while climbing very manly rocks on a manly planet. Merely watching the screen caused Kevin to grow extra chest hair. (I mean, he already has plenty, so you couldn’t tell, but I could hear it growing.) I believe I ovulated twice, although I was also becoming more manly, so it got complicated and there is a slim chance I have accidentally impregnated myself. But believe me, everyone is very manly. The female lead is also manly, although this is no reflection on her or the movie. I believe it was caused by the planet.

The very manly planet.

There is at least one scene where they went “Those speeders in Return of the Jedi? Not metal enough.”

How manly was it?

You remember those 1950’s pulp magazines called, like, “MAN’S DIGEST” which had a cover of some shirtless guy punching a jaguar in the face with a snake? Manly like that. Replace “shirtless guy” with “shirtless Vin Diesel” and “jaguar” with “alien scorpion snapping turtle” and you’ve about got it.

Also for some reason one of the mercenaries is a dead ringer for J. Grant of Two Lumps, only about a foot bigger in every direction. This caused some mental consternation. Not that I couldn’t see J. as a space mercenary, I just didn’t expect him to be so tall.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy thoroughly (other than the alien dog analog thing) was that as usual, every female character in the series would like to have sex with Riddick. This is not really unrealistic, I grant you, but Riddick teeters on the squishy edge of Mary Sue anyway, and I do roll my eyes a bit. (The only one of these flirtations I found hot was in Pitch Black. It’s not the manliness, actually. It’s the scene at the end where he’s all “Come on. It’s okay, you did your best, let’s go…” I kinda needed to sit down and fan myself for a bit after that one. Shame she’s eaten by aliens five minutes later.)

(No, I don’t know why, out of movie after movie with Vin Diesel’s torso, that’s the one that killed me. Eh, go figure. She was also the only female character I really empathized with in the whole lot.)

(Empathized in a manly way, obviously.)

(A very manly way.)

(Super manly empathy.)

(I have the sudden urge to hug someone from the side so that our genitals stay a respectable distance apart, and then perhaps discuss the Infield Fly Rule with someone. In a manly fashion.)







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